Discovery Departs For Final Mission Into History
By Ed Pierce // April 17, 2012
BREVARD COUNTY, FLORIDA – The ‘grand lady’ is on her final journey home.
NASA’s Space Shuttle Discovery lifted off this morning on the back of a converted Boeing 747 jetliner bound for its permanent resting place in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C.
The jet carrying Discovery was the same aircraft used to deliver the orbiter to Kennedy Space Center in 1983.
Weighing 167,000 pounds, Discovery was hoisted 60 feet off the ground Sunday so its carrier aircraft could be positioned underneath and attached for the trip to Washington.
As thousands lined beaches, streets and backyards in Brevard hoping for a final glimpse of Discovery, pilots guided the carrier aircraft slowly over the Kennedy Space Center Visitor Center and the Rocket Garden there.
They turned the aircraft south for a final cruise along Brevard’s beaches and then turned back north one last time at Patrick Air Force Base as if in a final salute to the Space Coast before setting out for Washington.
Discovery’s first flight into space was in August 1984 and its last mission was in February 2011.
All told, Discovery spent a total of 365 days, 22 hours, 39 minutes and 29 seconds in space, over the course of 39 missions.
It successfully carried 252 astronauts into space and was the most used orbiter in NASA’s fleet.
Discovery was the orbiter from which the Hubble Space Telescope was launched and served as the vehicle that carried Project Mercury astronaut John Glenn back into space in 1998.
After taking off from Kennedy Space Center, Discovery will fly over Washington before being displayed at the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles Airport in Chantilly, Va.
John Glenn is expected to be on hand for a special ceremony at the museum Thursday introducing Discovery and celebrating its history.
VIDEO: NASA Television